Vans have crowned the winner of the Musicians Wanted competition for 2021 through a livestream concert.
The virtual show saw the five finalists from Europe, the Middle East and Africa perform and receive feedback from the judging panel. The judges included British rock star Yungblud, rapper Denzel Curry, Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter Julia Michaels and 88rising founder Sean Miyashiro.
Northern Ireland’s Lemonade Shoelace performed first, bringing his positivity-fuelled experimental psych-pop to the competition. “Tight band, [it’s] music that I would want to listen to,” Miyashiro commented. “They have a distinct sound. I love it.”
London-based singer Kenya Grace shared some of her enigmatic R&B creations, winning praise from Michaels. “It’s really unique,” the star said. “I loved her voice. She has dynamics in her songs and she can perform them and sing them live, which is rare.”
Rapper KY’ORION flew the flag for Birmingham with his melodic, thought-provoking bars. “He’s just gotta keep going cos I like the vibe,” Curry said. “He needs to come up with some crazy patterns.”
Welsh duo Altered Myths turned up the volume with a two-track performance full of big blues-y riffs and pummelling drums. “They’re fusing a lot of different things together and I think that’s really dope to make it their own style,” Miyashiro shared. “I think the songwriting is great. I think they’re definitely onto something.”
Paris-based electronic musician p-i built the layers of her music on samplers and other equipment, crafting hypnotic songs that grew as they progressed. “I can see them going on after me, not before,” Yungblud said afterwards. “It feels very late night. If I was in the dance tent and that came on, fuck yeah I’m there. Big vibes.”
After each artist performed, the judges awarded them a mark out of 10, with their final score taken from their average score. At the end of the concert, Lemonade Shoelace had the highest mark with 8.3. “You can tell that they’ve put a lot of time and devotion and dedication into their artistry and their craft, and I’m so happy I got to experience that today,” Michaels said of the winning act.
Lemonade Shoelace has won a support slot with Yungblud when he tours the UK in January 2022, Vans product, Kramer gear, global music distribution, Spotify and Apple Music playlisting and more.
Speaking to NME ahead of the livestream concert, the musician said winning Vans Musician Wanted “would mean the absolute world to me”. “I feel like I’ve won already by just being selected as a finalist, which I never thought would happen,” he added. “It’s great to see recognition for my hard work; I produce everything myself and I’m so happy people are enjoying my output.”